Wednesday, February 13, 2013

California Suite

Following the successes of the stage and screen version of Plaza Suite, Neil Simon followed it up with another 1-2 punch in the "Grand Hotel" format, this time set in an L.A. lodge. Here we follow a divorced couple (Jane Fonda, Alan Alda) deciding the future of their daughter, a Hollywood power couple (Michael Caine, Maggie Smith) preparing for the Academy Awards, a pair of reluctant business partners (Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor) on a disastrous vacation with their families, and a philanderer (Walter Matthau) caught in the act, trying to explain the circumstances to his wife (Elaine May). Like much of Simon's work, this Herbert Ross helmed feature is often grating but is redeemed by engaging intelligent acting by Fonda, Alda, Caine, and Smith (who won an Oscar for her portrayal of an actress dreading the prospect of her imminent acquisition of one). On the other hand, I had no idea what was going on during Cosby and Prior's ill-advised, out of place slapstick sequences, and Matthau's segment goes nowhere until May turns up.